As we age, we tend to become more vulnerable to fraud. According to the National Consumers League, nearly a third of all telemarketing fraud victims are age 60 or older. That type of fraud represents billions of dollars per year. One study found that senior citizens, who make up 12% of the U.S. population, comprise 35% of fraud victims. Why are the elderly more susceptible to con artists?
- Seniors often enjoy a steady income. Social Security benefits, pensions, 401(k) plans, veteran's benefits, annuities - all are sources of income that scammers hope to divert to their personal bank accounts. When a senior gives out personal information over the phone, a con artist is one step closer to his or her goal.
- Retirees may have sizable investments. That big nest egg places a target on the back of many elderly folks. Unfortunately, a lifetime of careful money management may be wiped out by the ploy of a fraudulent investment "advisor." If an older person's home is paid off, his or her residence often represents an inviting target for reverse mortgage scams and property tax ploys. Fraudsters have been known to convince elderly homeowners to relinquish title to their homes and, unfortunately, adult relatives of seniors are often the perpetrators of this type of abuse.
- The elderly tend to be polite. Having been raised in a more civil generation, seniors may find it difficult to just hang up. They may balk at the idea that some telemarketers are, in fact, hardened criminals who ought to be serving time in jail.
- They're not as familiar with the Internet. Pop-up advertisements selling everything from magazine subscriptions to virus protection can be a front for gathering a senior's personal information. Elderly people who haven't been warned of the Internet's dangers may be susceptible to identity theft.
- Some elderly people have specialized needs. Health insurance and medical fraud, while not exclusive to seniors, are often perpetrated on that segment of the population. Fake anti-aging products, inflated funeral and cemetery expenses, bogus pharmaceuticals, unlicensed caretaking services - all have been sold to trusting senior citizens.
If you have elderly parents or grandparents, be sure to educate them about fraud. For additional information, check out the FBI's website, publications by the National Consumers League, and our articles on fraud prevention.